As visual creatures, we rely heavily on our ability to see, more importantly as marksman we are required to positively identify our target(s). How does stress interfere with our abilities to see and should you be worried?
Object of Your Affection
I have had discussions over the years with students who confuse seeing their sights with a fixated gaze to seeing “through” their sights to the target. In truth, they are the same. Mechanically there is no difference, it is more what the brain’s focus at that moment. For as long as I have been shooting I have noticed subtle differences in my sight picture. Excluding times where environmental conditions were responsible and focusing on what I would reference as common conditions. I have observed the main differences is really what my brain chooses to focus on at that moment and most of the time it was relegated to what it determined was the most important focal plane.
I can still recall the face of my long-time swim buddy when I asked him “do you see your sights when pulling the trigger?” It was as if I had a third eye on my forehead. Through some dialogue, I discovered I was doing it “wrong”. Or was I? I was already shooting in the top percentile of an already ridiculously talented gene pool. Was I wrong for getting my hits in a more unconventional manner. If the results were what mattered, who cares. Generally, I fell back on the old expression of “let the situation dictate”. It has been my central thought process for so many activities. Rather than try to force something, go with it, let the situation unfold and guide you towards what you need to do.
The Middle Ground
For me to completely trust this process I had to expend countless hours and ammunition perfecting a hard focus on my sight system. It was challenging because there were times my brain didn’t want to focus on the sights. I found a middle ground that I drilled over and over. No matter the situation, when presenting to the target I would force myself to at a minimum look through the sights. What I discovered was it no longer mattered. My mechanical superiority of psychically presenting the gun with the intention of aligning the sights was fluid enough sometimes I saw the sights clearly and other times I can remember looking through them. The mistake some folks make is looking over them; which will cause point of impact issues. You need to be disciplined every time you mount the pistol you are going for the sights. Let everything else work itself out from there.
Embrace the New Reality
Does it always work? As my vision deteriorates with age I am starting to see some new challenges. Add to the situation doing a large majority of my shooting at an indoor range with artificial lighting and it gets even more complex. Indoors I typically see through my sights because the lighting condition coupled with my eye sight elicits a different response. Now, if I were to step right outside suddenly that front sight post is as big as a fence post. I am enjoying these new challenges, I don’t find them as frustrating as I originally thought. My marksmanship fundamentals have never been keener, my vision holds me back. But, there are those times when I am under pressure for whatever reason and it is impressive to see what I need to see to make the hit. I believe the reason has to do with the marksmanship standards I hold myself and everyone I come into contact with in our classes. The standards create the atmosphere to truly evaluate your technique helping to reinforce the neural pathways for a flawless presentation.
There is a lot more to this subject than what a single blog can afford, expect to see some follow-ups. In the meantime, trust your skill level to flawlessly align the sights the let the situation dictate.